Event organizer Matthew Trapp holds his dog Max Pugsley and the dog’s prozac medication as the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association holds an event with pets on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

VIDEO: Vets lobby to expand medical cannabis laws to include dogs, cats

The law does not allow veterinarians to prescribe pot for pets

Parliament Hill went to the dogs Wednesday as veterinarians lobbied MPs to authorize the use of medical cannabis for critters.

The vets brought five dogs to the Hill to draw attention to what they see as glaring omissions in the legalized regimes for medical and recreational marijuana.

Among them was Max Pugsley, a pug rescue with such severe separation anxiety that he is on Prozac.

“It works really well but ideally we could have some kind of CBD (cannabidiol) product rather than some pharmaceutical like Prozac,” said Max’s owner, Matthew Trapp.

“CBD is shown to have great results but I can’t even talk to my vet about it.”

The law does not allow veterinarians to prescribe pot for pets, even though preliminary research and anecdotal evidence suggests it could be beneficial in treating pain, seizures, anxiety and other disorders — much as it is for humans.

Moreover, the law requires labels on cannabis products warning they be kept out of reach of children, but there’s no similar warning that they could be harmful to animals.

Dr. Sarah Silcox, president of the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine, said her group has been told the omissions were likely “an oversight” that can be considered when the legalized cannabis regime is reviewed in three years.

But she wants more urgent action.

“For our patients, they age much faster than we do and this really isn’t an issue that can wait for a three-year review,” Silcox said in an interview.

Because vets can’t legally prescribe cannabinoids for animals, or even offer advice to pet owners on the most suitable products or dosages, Silcox said some people are taking it upon themselves to administer cannabis to their pets. They’re using products sold for human consumption or unregulated “black market” products marketed for animal use, but about which veterinarians have concerns about ”safety and purity.”

“Veterinarians are able to prescribe almost any other drug, including things like fentanyl and other opioids and … prescription drugs that contain cannabis derivatives and yet we’re not able to authorize the use of cannabis itself,” Silcox said.

The prohibition on veterinary use of cannabinoids has made research into the potential benefits “challenging,” but Silcox said preliminary studies suggest positive benefits for managing pain from arthritis and other conditions, epilepsy, anxiety and general inflammatory conditions.

It is particularly useful for treating cats, which are more sensitive than dogs to the other pain medications currently used for animals, she said.

Silcox’s group and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association have lobbied the government to authorize veterinary use of cannabinoids. Silcox said they’ve been told by the policy adviser to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor that it is not a priority at the moment, but could be considered when the Cannabis Act is reviewed in three years.

However, Silcox noted the government is reviewing cannabis regulations now in preparation for adding edibles and oils to the list of legal products this fall. It would take only a “few small changes” to add vets to the medical practitioners authorized to prescribe cannabinoids and to change references to people to patients, covering both the human and animal variety, she said.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair, who was the government’s point man on cannabis legalization, said the government is willing to talk to veterinarians about the issue but added: “I think the research needs to be perhaps more fully developed to make sure it can be done in a safe and healthy way.”

But Dr. Ian Sandler, a veterinarian who was among those lobbying MPs Wednesday, said cannabinoids are already being administered unsafely to pets, without veterinary guidance, and he predicted the problem will get worse once edibles are legalized for people.

“If that’s implemented, we know from the U.S. that we’re going to see a profound increase in inappropriate ingestion,” he said.

READ MORE: Victoria dog owner uses CBD treats as alternative to pharmaceuticals

READ MORE: Vets see an increasing number of dogs sickened by marijuana

Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

White Rock neighbours to host second-annual ‘Feast for Friends’

Victoria Terrace residents to raise money for food bank

Task force brainstorms on support for Semiahmoo homeless community

Community service providers gather to discuss options for housing, income safety and more

Two people reportedly sent to hospital after two-vehicle collision in Surrey

Collision happened on the 16500-block of 64 Avenue

Surrey tells Uber to cease operations in city, but company ‘respectfully’ declines

Ridesharing company told to stop operating within the city by 9 p.m. Jan. 24

South Surrey couple donates $250K to students in honour of late son

Joseph Chung Scholarship Fund helps out 100 post-secondary students

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

Man clings to roof of car driving along busy road in Maple Ridge

The man was also seen jumping on the vehicle

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Most Read